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Which Central Vacuum is The Best?

It is the single most asked question at Vacdepot, and for good reason. If you browse the web for central vacuum power units you will find dozens of products that claim to be the best. There are many brands and models of central vacuum power unit, and each one may be best for someone - but not every models is best for everyone. If you are installing your own central vacuum or replacing an old unit you have a clear advantage over a builder installed vacuum system - you have the power to choose. The information available below will help you find the best vacuum for you, and only you.

To answer which model is best, first you need to start with another question which you may have not thought applied to central vacuum systems: Bag or Bagless? Often the question of filtration and collection receives little or no consideration in central vacuum equipment selection. All too often central vacuum shoppers become entangled in a question of motor power instead of vacuum efficiency and easy of use. Some just assume that all central vacuums are made the same way or that they have no choice of how collection and filtration is performed. Some may even believe that it does not matter. Filtration and collection is the center of all central vacuum design and determines every aspect of usability, performance and even durability. Understanding central vacuum filtration and collection is the answer to which central vacuum is best.

For many of us the question of filtration and collection depends on WHO is maintaining the vacuum, WHAT is being picked up with the vacuum, WHERE the power unit will be located in the home and HOW maintaining the central vacuum will affect the performance of the system and the well being of the person doing the cleaning.

A long time central vacuum standard, the majority of central vacuum systems are bagless. Bagless central vacuums collect their vacuumed debris into a removable bin that is dumped when full. For some new central vacuum owners and many more of those replacing an old unit the disposable paper bag system is the more convenient choice. More central vacuum systems are now available in the Hybrid design which can be used with or without a disposable bag. There are even a few models which exclusively use a disposable bag for the truly dedicated. While there are but two methods of collection, bagless or bagged, there are many methods of filtration including cloth filter, metal screen, pleated media and others. Every method has issues to consider and advantages. For many homeowners more than one method may be viable for their application. By learning about each method available you can quickly identify which is best suited for your home.

This article seeks to inform the reader about the systems design of central vacuum power units. It will not provide you a quick link to buy the "the best central vacuum". It will give you the information you need to understand why you would want to own one style of central vacuum power unit over another. This information is not a sales pitch, it does not recommend a particular model or even a particular brand. There are plenty of websites and articles where you can find the traditional hard-sell for a particular brand or model, this article is not one. Vacdepot authored this article to promote a better understanding of central vacuum systems for a happier central vacuum owner.

Central Vacuum Selection: Get The Scoop!

Central Vacuum Filtration & Collection Systems

3 Steps to Select the Perfect CVS
There are many brands and many more models of Central Vacuum power units, which can make selection of just one a daunting task. In reality the selection of a CVS power unit is simple once you understand just what it is you are looking for. Think of these three steps as a screening process. Apply each screen one at a time. The models that remain on your list after the third step are good candidates for your application. From there your choice may be influenced by personal factors such as brand preference, cost or availability. Instead of looking for "which model" is for me, look for "what model" does what I need. Find the right central vacuum(s) using this simple three-step process:

Decide Which Filtration/Collection System is right for you.
This article will provide the information needed to know which filtration and collection method is best for you.
Find the models with the appropriate power for your home.
Use the manufacturers suggested square footage and air watts ratings to find a vacuum of appropriate power. Every central vacuum will list both and most all vacuums fall into the small, medium, large and XL flavors.
Pick out any extra features you want or need.
Low noise, utility inlet, LCD controls, extra long warranty or even a particular color. Once you find the filter system you want with the power you need you can usually find all the goodies you would like.


Purchasing a new or replacement central vacuum system can be as simple or as detailed a decision as you would like. Which filtration and collection system you choose should be based on your personal preference. There is not a single best method and all designs work very well but the most popular method may not be the best for you.

Central Vacuums Dirty Secret
Many central vacuum shoppers start at the second step and can get bogged down in power unit selection by the confusing and numerous technical terms that describe a central vacuums motor power. Air watts, sealed lift, CFM, motor stages, db level, exhausting port and other specifications are important to be sure. But take a step back and you will find that many of the central vacuums within a given size class offer similar performance, function and features. Many of the CVS power units available today share the same motor systems and offer identical power specifications. Look deeper at the central vacuum models available and you may even realize that a few brands of central vacuum are produced by the same OEM, using the same components with only small differences between them. Knowing which central vacuum has the correct power for a given application is not as hard as some would have you believe.

And the secret to central vacuums: you cannot buy a bad central vacuum. Central vacuums from most any major line manufacturer that you might find browsing online or at your local vacuum showroom are great products - many times stronger, more efficient and more reliable than products produced just a decade ago. Even the wrong central vacuum for your application will likely clean very well but may leave the homeowner unsatisfied with the function or usage of the system overall. Shopping for your new central vacuum power unit will be simple now that you know the secret. Determine the best filtration & collection system for you, find the models with appropriate power for your home and get the extras you want. Remember these steps and you are guaranteed to have a lifetime of cleaning satisfaction.

What Vacdepot Recommends
The second most asked question by Vacdepot customers and the answer is simple, or not. We recommend the best quality central vacuum power unit. Our central vacuum power unit pricing is the same for everyone and it is listed right up front. We recommend you get the best quality for your budgeted vacuum system dollars. Buy quality and you will never regret it. While most everyone would agree, many believe this means quality will certainly cost you more. This is not always the case in todays market and many folks have learned that it is not always correct to conflate higher prices with higher quality.

Knowledge is Savings. Before you buy it's best to know what components or system design are important in the manufacture of a quality central vacuum power unit. Just a small bit of research will yield many times the effort in value and savings. Back in the 60's you could rely on a brand name to be assured of value. Unfortunately in the new millennium manufacturers have moved on from the quaint notion that brand names should define a specific quality standard. We recommend that you look for actual value in the components and design, not the name badge. A brand name is a feature no different than any other feature, it is not a guarantee.

Vacdepot sells many models of power unit and most every brand of central vacuum built for the USA market. Ask us for our opinion about any particular model and you will likely get an ear full. We know that you can easily sort and select central vacuum power units on the Vacdepot website based on performance, brand, color, cost or gadgetry that is most important to you. So when you go through the effort to contact us and ask What Do You Recommend?, what we actually hear is someone asking What is the best Quality?

Our professional recommendation is our subjective opinion acquired and adjusted over decades of sales, service and installation of central vacuums. We equally respect your desire to own a particular brand name for no other reason than to possess the name itself. We value your need to have a central vacuum of a specific color to match other appliances or decor. We perfectly understand the need to purchase a model of vacuum for it's one cool feature, even if that feature is unrelated to quality, performance or value. While we default to a position of quality first, all else last, we conceded this is not the only methodology for central vacuum power unit selection. It is your money - it is your choice, you should above all be happy with your selection. There are many great brands and many excellent models of central vacuum and that variety of choice is a wonderful thing.


Central Vacuum Filtration & Collection Systems

Bagless: Permanently Filtered
The most common method of production and one of the most widely used methods of filtration in CVS. This design has a permanently installed cloth filter in the vacuum unit that separates the incoming debris-laden air and collection system (dirty side) from the motor and exhausting air (clean side). Dirty air pulled into the central vacuum power unit is suctioned through the cloth filter. The dirty side of the cloth filter stops particles on the surface, allowing the cleaned air to pass though.

Just like the furnace filter in your home's heating/cooling system, dirt and debris collect on the outside of the filter and the suction motor is protected from damage. This permanent filter is maintained by a mechanical flexing action which is part of the filters design that helps it to shed the filtered debris into the collection bin below for emptying by the user. Some dealers and installers prefer this type of filtration since the limiting design helps to protect the power unit's motor from a person unaware of the vacuum system or how full the collection bin may be. This method is quite simple and very fool proof but the permanent filter limits the performance of this system and there may be additional maintenance required.

The Good.
Simple Design, Available in Many Models, Great Motor Protection.
Not So Good.
Lower Performance, Messy to Empty & Maintain, Filter Retains Odors, Limited Installation Locations.
Read More About Bagless Permanently Filtered CVS


HYBRID Collection Systems
Not sure which is better for your application, bagless or bagged? HYBRID Collection Systems might be right for you. HYBRID systems are built in the same basic design as a permanently filtered vacuum unit with some modifications to the intake system and occasionally a change to the filter media system. A HYBRID system is one which can be used with a sealed disposable bag or as a traditional bagless dump-out collection system. HYBRID systems leave the collection choice up to you and the system can be changed from one collection style to the other as needed. When bagless the HYBRID system functions as any regular permanently filtered power unit with a self cleaning filter to separate the incoming debris from the air. When used in bag mode the HYBRID system provides hygienic collection of vacuumed debris inside a sealed closed top bag. When the bag is full you simply toss it and install a new bag.
The Good.
Simple Design, Excellent Motor Protection, Choice of Collection Systems, Hygienic Maintenance in Bag Mode, Great for many Installation Locations.
Not So Good.
Lower Performance in Bagless Mode, Cost Of Bags (est $15-$20/YR.)
Read More About HYBRID Collection CVS


Bagless Cyclonic Systems
Cyclonic Separation is a method of bagless filtration used in early central cleaning systems and is still used by a few manufacturers today. This design applies a spinning motion to the incoming dirty air combined with a conical shape inside the vacuum to force the heavier debris to the outside of the of the air stream where they drop into the collection bin below. A small amount of debris, usually 3% - 6% at peak efficiency and up to 10% or more at a low efficiency cannot be separated from the air stream and is pulled into a second filter. The secondary filter may be either a fiberglass media cartridge filter (a filtered cyclonic system) or a mesh metal screen (a fully cyclonic or "true cyclonic" system). Sometimes described as the most efficient method of central vacuum filtration the cyclonic separation vacuum system is perhaps the method of filtration we hear about most often from customers seeking to replace their old or broken central vacuum. It is also a design many new central vacuum shoppers ask about after seeing demonstrations at home & garden shows. Many times cyclonic vacuums are often erroneously referred to as "filterless".
The Good: Filtered Cyclonic
Great Motor Protection, Excellent Peak System Performance, Venting Not Required.
Not So Good: Filtered Cyclonic
Long Cycle Filter Lowers Performance, Cartridge Filter Retains Odors, Messy Maintenance & Bin Emptying, No Sealed Bag Option, Cost Of Filters (est. $20./yr), Limited Installation Locations.
The Good: Fully Cyclonic
Excellent Peak System Performance, No Permanent Filter Odors.
Not So Good: Fully Cyclonic
Higher Maintenance Requirements, Low Motor Protection, Messy Collection Bin Maintenance, No Sealed Bag Option, Exterior venting Required, Limited Installation Locations.
Read More About Filtered Cyclonic and Fully Cyclonic CVS


Bag Only Systems
Disposable filter systems use a single disposable bag for both filtration and collection, what is often referred to as a "Bag Only" power unit. The Bag Only system uses a closed top filter fitted onto the intake tube to force all vacuumed debris into the filtration media. While all other functions and features are similar to any other central vacuum filtration method the Bag Only system is more similar to the maintenance of a paper bag portable vacuum. When the Bag Only is full the entire filter and collection system is disposed of in one step. Bag Only systems offer hygienic filtration and collection where the user, the vacuum and the surrounding areas are not contaminated with dust during a normal bag change. With the ability to dispose of both filter and collection system you also rid your vacuum of more odors each time you change the bag, important for those homes with inside pets or where the vacuum power unit may need to be located inside one of the clean rooms of your home. Bag Only systems are one of the preferred filtration method for those who are sensitive to dust, suffer from allergies or have breathing issues including asthma that may be triggered by small particulates in the air.
The Good.
Excellent Performance Short Cycle Filter, Great Motor Protection, Easy & Hygienic to Maintain and Use, Great for Any Installation Location, Great Design For Users w/Allergies or Asthma.
Not So Good.
Extra Cost Of Disposable Bags approx $15-$20/YR., No Secondary Motor Protection, Limited Models Available.
Read More About Bag Only CVS


Why Central vacuums
It has been clinically proven that a central cleaning system is the most efficient means to rid your home of dirt, dust and allergens. Using a central cleaning system will not only easily maintain your home's neat appearance it will also allow you to maintain a healthy home. Central vacuums are also an excellent choice for green building and provide up to 5 points in the NAHB Green Building Guidelines. Central Cleaning Systems are not only more powerful, but are also many times more quiet and can provide perfect 100% filtration inside your home which can not be achieved using any portable vacuum that exhausts the return air into the same room your are cleaning. Central vacuums are both more versatile and more convenient to use than portable vacuums and unlike any portable vacuum, a Central vacuum System installed in your home will add resale value to your property often double or more the initial cost of the equipment.

The cost of purchasing and installing a central vacuum has fallen dramatically in the last 15 years thanks to increased production efficiency and robust competition that provides central vacuum users with a large selection of filtration methods to choose from. Conversely the cost of a quality portable vacuum has risen in the same period of time with some models now selling for more than the cost of a quality central vacuum installed in your home. Installing a central vacuum in your home is also easier now days with standardized tube and fittings that conform to the Uniform Building Code, and a do-it-yourselfer or handyman can often complete installation in two days for an existing home or less than a day for a new home under construction. We speak with thousand of people each year from all over the country and the question often is What's the best central vacuum? The answer is not a black box of confusing equations that can only be found with a slide rule by a professional installer. Knowledge is the answer and using this new tool you now have the key that can unlock the mystery of Which Central Vacuum is the Best for me.  
An Original Vacdepot Article. © 2014

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